BJ SIASOCO: Hello and welcome, everyone. My name is BJ Siasoco, and I'm the current executive vice chair of the Employee Assembly. Thank you for attending today's employee assembly annual president's address to staff. We hope you enjoyed the photos, they were all taken by the talented staff members of University Photo. At this time, we'll ask you to please silence your cellphones for the duration of the program.
The employee assembly is the shared governance body for the staff members at Cornell. Our current chair is Ulysses Smith. Ulysses has a long history of experience with shared governance. During his time as an undergraduate here at Cornell, he studied participatory governance structures with a focus on creating access to institutions and decision making processes for under-served and under-represented groups, and also served as the Student Assembly President.
He currently serves as the lead diversity and inclusion strategist for the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity. I've had the privilege of working alongside Ulysses through our re-imagining of the employee assembly structure last year, and I'm excited to see where we'll go under his leadership. You'll hear more about the employee assembly today. So please join me in welcoming Ulysses Smith, Chair of the Employee Assembly.
ULYSSES SMITH: It's always great when BJ does the intro, because he makes me sound so smart and accomplished. And so I'm happy to be here. So good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us today for this annual event. My name is Ulysses Smith, as BJ said, and I am the lead diversity and inclusion strategist for the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity. Say that three times fast. Was talking about making the organization a little leaner. And chair of the employee assembly this term.
Now word of warning, I outlined these remarks while I was attempting to vacation last week in New Orleans with a cocktail or six. So this could either be really riveting and engaging or just-- manage your expectations. So the institution has changed. Is that a fair statement to say right now? And it is still experiencing quite a bit of change.
So anyway, there's much uncertainty and a tiny bit of unease among the staff population. At an institution of this size, with over 8,000 staff, it can be a bit difficult to navigate a lot of change and it can be even more difficult to figure out where exactly you fit in in all of that change.
Today we're here to talk about how the staff population, the workforce, the lifeblood of this institution-- all of you-- are going to be instrumental in determining the direction of the institution. So since it's election season, let's do a straw poll. I heard the collective groan. Let's do a straw poll. How many of you cook? Oh, Many hands. Free dinners all around. So that's a good one, that's a simple one, right? Now, how many of you cook well?
You know there's some shakiness here, like half the hands went down. I'm feeling some type of way about that, so maybe not free dinners. So here's the thing, and I've seen what some of you bring for lunch, but I'll keep that to myself. Here's the thing. Cooking is all about experimenting. We often have recipes to follow, but usually we tweak them to fit our tastes. And when you are really hungry, you will just try anything, right? Just throw a little cinnamon in here, and maybe a little cardamom, and garlic, random.
So let's try a different poll, maybe this one will do. How many of you have ever had an idea? Why are you laughing? I didn't say anything funny this time. So a good number of hands went up there, right? Lots of ideas. Now how many of you have actually shared your ideas? And this has been either with your immediate workforce, your work team, leadership. Not as many hands as the great ideas, but enough.
But I think that's something that we should highlight here, right? More often than not, maybe a lot of us don't feel like we have the opportunity to share ideas with other people in our work group. How many of you have ever been bold enough to even just try out your idea? Without asking, just asking for forgiveness. It's OK, Mary's not looking. You can say this. So even few of you say that.
So I have a challenge for all of you, and this is to Mary. I want you to be bold. What does that mean? If we want this institution to sail beyond excellence, we are going to need the innovation and ingenuity of our staff. The same way we experiment with our meals, let's experiment in our jobs, and in our positions, and in our roles. How can we take the initiative to do things differently and to have each of you just try something, take a risk, without fear of failure?
I want to have everyone repeat after me. So this is a church thing, I grew up back there down in the South, so we're gong to a little choir rehearsal real quick. And try to stay with me because you might not have ever heard this word before or been forced to use it, and that word is no. So we're going to practice saying that once or twice. So sopranos, (SINGING)this is your note, (SPEAKING)and I need everybody to stay up there, OK? On the count of three. One two, three, no. That was a little weak, and somebody was a little flat. Somebody's in the key of she flat, I think.
So what I want us to do, because I see minds have been blown at this point by hit by hearing the word no. Typically when we hear no, it's something that is pretty stifling to us. It shuts down an idea. However, as a collective workforce, we are going to reclaim that word in order to say, no, we will no longer do business as usual. We must disavow the cherished notion of business as usual and the beloved that's the way we've always done it mentality.
We have an opportunity to rethink the way we work and what it means to be an employee of this great institution. We have an opportunity to redefine how the institution invests in us and how we invest in the institution. So let's take the long tradition of any person, any study, and declare any person, any work, any job, and any idea. Let's establish a culture where staff innovation and doing things differently is the norm, where speaking up and taking risks is something that we cherish more than anything, and where bringing your whole self into the workplace is valued.
So how do we accomplish all of this? I know what you're thinking, oh no, he's going to give me more work. And you're right. So last year the employee assembly restructured in order to become a more representative and engaging part of the shared governance model. The new structure has grown to 28 members, with seats dedicated to the colleges and administrative units and our identity based affinity groups and our colleague network groups.
Now that we've changed our actual structure, the real fun must begin. Last week you all received an invitation to complete the employee survey. The survey is conducted every five years, and is a way for senior leadership to really hear from the staff firsthand and in their own words. It gives us a better understanding of what you all are facing, what you like, what you don't like-- I'm sure that list is very, very, very short-- what you would like to see, and most importantly, who you are. So the survey is open now and will close in November. And it is extremely important to me and to everyone else that you complete this survey.
So what's going to happen? I know oftentimes they say, well, I wrote a whole page of positive things in the survey. I wrote a whole page of things and I don't know what happened, I don't know where it went. What are we going to do with it? Well, Vice President Mary Opperman and the Division of Human Resources will be reviewing that data, and they will share it with the employee assembly, parts of it.
Beginning next semester, the EA will partner with Vice President Opperman and others to hold focus groups based on those results. And this will give us an opportunity to focus in on any of the major themes that come from those results. All of this information will be used by the EA to create a strategic plan just for staff. It will give us a working product that outlines our priorities for staff, whether they are benefits, policies, work-life balance, or paying off Ulysses' Cornell loans from undergrad-- emphasis on the latter, please. That's not funny, that's for real.
So all of you who raised your hands earlier to say you had a great idea-- not the cooking, because I don't think I trust all of you on that one to be telling the truth-- you have volunteered unwittingly to become part of the employee assembly, its associated committees, and this entire process.
So I encourage you to do three things for me. Only three, I promise. The first is to complete the staff survey. Please do that. That's not an option for you, because I'm making you do it. The next is to share an idea of how to do something differently. It can be with your immediate work team, it can be with leadership, it can be with the employee assembly. Come to Day Hall and talk to me, I'm happy to hear it. Or bother BJ, he loves to be bothered.
And then the third thing is that I want you all to get involved. Figure out how exactly you want to get involved. If you want some help in navigating that, I'm happy to sit down and talk to you about it so we can figure out the best way to match your level of engagement. To find something that works just right for you.
Did you ever hear the slogan, I think it had to be in the 90s, there was a big slogan for voting. It was like, if you don't vote, you don't get to complain. Now, I want to kind of apply that here. Now, we are all very, very good at telling each other when something is not right. When it's not good. But sometimes those whispers never make it to the people that need to hear it the most. Or we often don't want to take the time to do some of the work ourselves to try to correct some of the things, or engage with each other to make it better.
So let's take this opportunity and reflect on that, and try to take it a bit further for us. Let's actually dive in and try something different. We have an opportunity now with a brand new structure, many more engage people on the assembly who are ready and willing to do some of this work with you. And we'll be right there the entire time, praying that I pay off my loans, too.
So those are the only three things do we have to deal? Is that good? That was really, really weak. This time the altos were just a little off. Try it again. Do we have a deal? Yes. Resounding yes, absolutely. Senior leadership wants to hear these things, correct? Yes. They're all excited to hear everything that you bring. So thank you for that. And now I'll turn it over to our guest of honor, who really needs no introduction, but I'm going to do it anyway.
So many of you have probably received a service award or two, or maybe even three, during one of his 10 years as president. Some might argue that he has become a Cornell tradition himself. We're grateful to have him here, even in an interim role, to continue this long tradition of giving the staff the opportunity to engage with senior leadership. So please join me in welcoming interim President Hunter Rawlings III.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So thank you very much, Ulysses, for that wonderful introduction, and for your remarks, which were most enjoyable. I'm glad they've taken the picture of that old guy down from the screen. Seeing youth and hearing youth is a great thing, so I'll try to be a little bit younger than I normally am these days.
So I started at Cornell in 1995. How many of you were working for Cornell in 1995? Hey, that's great! That's terrific. So I've seen a lot of you many times before. It's great to see you again. It's wonderful for Elizabeth and me to be back here on the hill and to experience all the joys at Cornell. I was saying up until last Saturday, we even had an undefeated football team. Now we've lost one, but that's OK. I'll take the record we have compared with those of the last few years, and I'll take credit for the first three games. After that, I don't know.
So I have spent the last five years in Washington DC representing 62 major research universities, including, of course, Cornell. And these universities are really quite remarkable. In fact, these days I would say in American culture they are among the leading institutions in this country. And the reason for that is they've taken on such a major role in American society, the American economy, in our culture. They just play a huge role.
And Cornell among those 62 probably plays the largest role of all. And the reason for that is that we are a private university with a public mission. We have three campuses now in New York state-- two in New York City, one here in Ithaca-- and we have campuses around the world, including in Doha, where we have a second medical college. So the influence and impact of Cornell is incredible. Probably greater than that of any other university. I know universities like to brag about those things, but I think in our case it actually fits.
So you are part of a very remarkable institution. One of the greatest research universities in the world with an enormous footprint and an enormous impact. Now, the universities that I've spent the last five years with have their own versions of shared governance. They all have shared governance to one degree or another, because that's a hallmark of American research universities.
But Cornell's I would say is among the most inclusive examples of shared governance. Most universities have a faculty senate, but very few have shared governance bodies for the other constituencies on campus. And even fewer provide for representation by those key constituencies on the board of trustees. Cornell does all of those things because we want to have everyone involved, as Ulysses just emphasized.
Each time I've been at Cornell as president, I've found perspective of the shared governance group's extremely informative, and helpful, and useful. And the reason for that is that we're able to gauge opinion on the campus, we're able to hear good ideas, new ideas. We're able to hear reactions to things that we have done, and that others have done.
One of the EA's projects for the year is to create a staff engagement plan, and I think that's terrific. Because we want everybody here to be engaged in Cornell. That can provide a long term framework for addressing staff needs. It's going to draw on the results of the survey.
And I want to second Ulysses' remarks about the importance of that survey. I know it's not fun to fill out surveys, but this one's pretty brief. We do this only every five years, and we do treat the results seriously. So please fill those out. I'm sure you have gotten your request. And as I said in my e-mail to you alerting you to the survey, I'm asking supervisors to allow you some time to complete it so that this will be something that's easy for you to do.
The office of the President and the senior leaders at Cornell across the campus use the results of the survey to identify areas of concern, to facilitate campus wide discussion of those concerns, and to explore solutions. This year we're particularly interested in seeing how employees' experiences of Cornell may have changed since the baseline five years ago. That we want to do some comparisons with what we received five years ago.
So my mantra this year, and I have to make sure I don't have too many mantras. I am an interim president. But my mantra this year is One Cornell. It's a very simple and straightforward one. Part of the concept of One Cornell involves the undergraduate curriculum university wide, which I've encouraged the faculty of our colleges to review this year. Because it's something we don't generally do across the colleges as a campus.
A second aspect of the One Cornell concept is how to foster deeper collaboration and unity across racial and ethnic divides. You all know the past couple of years have been pretty tough in this country in that regard. A lot of bad news, a lot of bad events. And it's very important that we in this community make sure that those events do not happen here. And that when they do happen anywhere, we are a single community, One Cornell, confronting such things with our own views and our own cohesion. Celebrating and seeking to understand both our differences and the things we hold in common.
I think it's especially important for us to set a good example, because American society has all kinds of divisions these days. We see those in the presidential debates, we see them in the newspaper all the time, we see them on television. And I think it's especially important that we set a better example. That we show that we are a united community, that we do have values and principles that are common to all of us that we believe in, and that we exhibit-- not just talking about them, but doing them.
At the high five luncheon next month, Mary Opperman and I will be presenting several university wide achievement awards for staff, including for the first time a new award, the President's Award for Innovation in Diversity and Inclusion. This award recognizes the accomplishments of a staff member, manager, or supervisor, and affirms the importance we attach to diversity and inclusion at Cornell. So we want to symbolize the significance of this kind of cohesion in our community with an award of that kind.
The third component of One Cornell requires us to tap the power of our three campuses in New York state-- Ithaca, the Weill Medical College in New York City, and now Cornell Tech-- so that we can take advantage of each other's strengths, collaborate in new ways, and create synergies that go beyond anything we have achieved in the past.
With the opening next year of Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island, we have a tremendous new opportunity to make Cornell incredibly visible in New York City. We're already somewhat visible there, we're going to be a great deal more visible in the future with the opening of Cornell Tech. So that Cornell will be among the very, very, very few institutions that exist and are prominent in both upstate New York and downstate New York.
That's a remarkable opportunity for us to reach across the line that is so prevalent in New York state history dividing upstate and downstate. And many of you are aware of that line. You cross it when you take the Cornell bus. You cross it when you go into New York City. There is a palpable difference in New Yorkers' views of upstate and downstate. Cornell is one of the very few institutions that bridges that gulf. And I think it's important for us to do it well.
Cornell staff can help us do this. In order to ensure that we have collaboration across our campuses, we have fantastic opportunities now in research, and in teaching, in education, and pedagogy, and all the things that we do that include service. Because it's New York state's land grant university, we have a responsibility to serve the state of New York. And we can do that through programs that we operate both here in upstate and those we operate in downstate.
So a lot of our staff already have a great deal of experience with this kind of collaboration. One example with very positive results is the Lean Process Improvement Project that many of you have worked on. How many of you have worked on the Lean Process Improvement Project? Good, a number of hands go up. I hope in the future more hands will go up. It allows those who actually use a process to figure out how to make it better and remove waste.
Since we began this project in January of '13, nearly 600 people have served on process improvement teams, mainly on Ithaca campus, but also somewhat in New York City as well. 85 teams so far have improved workflow and made it possible to do more work that actually adds value. That's a big deal for us to have the staff actually come up with the ideas that help us save time and energy. Because you all are the ones who are closest to the work. So we can use your ideas.
And as Ulysses was emphasizing earlier, rather than just doing everything the same old way, it's important that we be innovative, that we be bold, that we take advantage of what our minds come up with, and that we be less risk averse. Now I know we're all risk averse to some extent, but we would like to make Cornellians less risk averse in the future. Take risks,
I mean, obviously reasonable risks, not unreasonable ones. But reasonable risks that enable you to try out something, to experiment a bit, to come up with something innovative and then say to your supervisor or your colleague, I think this new way works better. Let's test it out and see if that's the case. I hope more of us will begin to do that. So far the Lean Process has provided nearly $5 and 1/2 million in added value benefits to Cornell. $5 and 1/2 million in benefits to Cornell. Your willingness to collaborate and foster cooperation while carrying out your own job responsibilities is paying off in other ways, as well.
To give just one example, Cornell Dining ranked number three nationally in the best campus food category. Number three. I don't know why we're not number one, I have no idea. But number three's not bad nationally. It's the highest ranking Cornell Dining has ever received. It's not just the result of good recipes or ingredients, it reflects the dedicated effort of Cornell Dining staff to do a first rate job. And they do a first rate job, and we're the beneficiaries of that. They hold themselves to high standards. They want to do well. They want to make sure that they're providing the best possible meals on campus.
A third way you have collaborated across colleges many other official designations is in your generosity to your peers. And I want to put a special emphasis on this. Year after year, you make the Cornell United Way campaign a success, with Cornell faculty, students, and staff providing nearly 40% of the countywide United Way campaign every year. I'm really proud of that record. It's a record that goes back a lot of years at Cornell. We participate we engage, we give generously. Elizabeth and I were proud to be United Way supporters in previous years, and we're proud to join in this year's effort as well. So United Way is one of the best ways in which Cornell contributes to its communities, plural.
In addition, since 1989, the Cornell Elves have provided families in need with new clothes and toys that are especially wanted and needed in the holiday season. That program has expanded to provide new backpacks and school supplies at the start of every school year to kids in Tompkins and surrounding counties, who would otherwise be starting the school year without needed supplies. Last year the backpack program provided 1,210 backpacks to children in 31 schools, a new record. That kind of generosity is really great. It speaks to the Cornell community and its values.
Another important program for which you've been critical is the emergency care fund, which can make a real difference in helping faculty and staff members cope with financial problems that arise suddenly. The annual online auction is November 1 to 3 this year, and it's accepting donations for the auction through October the 28th. You can find details on the Division of Human Resources website.
So this is a great university largely because of what you contribute every day, but also when the spirit moves you to do something generous for someone else. It's a really big deal. If you look around our area of New York state, there are areas that are clearly impacted by poverty. You don't have to drive very far from here to see them and the people in them. And the more we can do to help them, the more we are carrying out our service responsibility as New York state's land grant university. So it's an important thing for us. It's an important principle that we see it as part of our mission to help those who are less fortunate. And the more we do that, the better off everybody up here is going to be.
I'll say a quick word about the presidential search before I take your questions. The presidential search is going well. I'm, of course, especially happy to say. And the search committee, which comprises members from the staff, and the faculty, and the trustees, and other constituencies, has been hard at work now for a number of months. They've been winnowing candidates. They are looking forward, I think, to a successful conclusion sometime in the next several months. I'm pretty confident that they will be able to announce a new president by the end of this year, and that the new president will start as soon as possible.
No, I'm only kidding there. I kind of like this job, to be honest with you. Don't tell the trustees that, please. But it is really wonderful to be back at Cornell to see so many friends, and to be able to collaborate with faculty, and staff, and students at one of the world's really, really great universities. Thank you for your attention, and I'll be happy to take your questions.
OK, Cornellians are not shy, so who's going to go first?
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you, Present Rawlings. So we do have folks with microphones and they'll come up and down the aisles. If you have a question, please raise your hand. And if you're also watching the livestream, you can also click on the button that says ask a question. We'll be moderating those from the front here, as well.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Great. So BJ, I'll let you run the process, and I'll be happy to answer any questions. You want to take one that's been submitted?
BJ SIASOCO: Yep. So the first question we have here is from Linda Copman, and she asks, in your opinion what is the single biggest challenge facing Cornell in the next 10 years, and what is our single biggest opportunity? And what are some steps we could take now to position Cornell to best respond to both of these things?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So I think that our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity. So I can give one answer. And that is making certain that we get the best possible collaboration among our different campuses. I think that Cornell now, with Cornell Tech, with Weill Cornell Medicine, and with the Ithaca campus has a phenomenal opportunity to create the synergies that make each one of those three campuses even better. And I frankly think this would give us a chance, if we do this well, to make Cornell the best university in the US, bar none. Because the talent and the resources available on those three campuses are quite incredible.
The issue is, can we make them work together? Because it's really easy to work apart. It's really, really easy to do that. To live in one's own narrow world and not reach out beyond the confines of the campus. So we have a lot of great opportunities there. It's going to be a challenge to make it work. It does take a little while to get from Ithaca to New York City. We just have to persuade people in New York City that the buses run in both directions, and they can come to Ithaca.
So that kind of communication is important. Transportation is really important. And I think if we can do this right, in 15 or 20 years the results are going to be completely amazing.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. And we can-- there is a question from the audience, answer that.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Yes, here's one. Here comes your microphone. Oh, thanks.
SPEAKER 1: Can you hear me?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: I can. Can everybody else?
SPEAKER 1: So I did complete the employee survey. I appreciated that opportunity. And the question that was with me as I was completing it was I was curious to know how many people, if they had been here for five years, might be in a different position or unit than they were when they completed this survey five years ago. I found that my answers to those questions had been significantly impacted because I'm in a new role now. And that wasn't one of the questions on the survey, but I'm curious to know if that might be an additional data point that you might be able to collect.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Now, that is a really smart suggestion. And I'm not sure that we have captured that very well. I think you're absolutely right to raise it. I think it's a great, very smart suggestion, and it's something we definitely ought to take into account. Because as you're saying, your perspective is quite different now that you're in a different position. So Mary, word to the wise, let's make sure the next one incorporates that. That's a great point. Thank you. That's just the kind of suggestion we're looking for, frankly, to make these things better.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. We'll take one of the questions from online here. And we have two folks that have asked about the Geneva campus, and how do you feel the Geneva campus plays into the synergies that you just mentioned?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So the Geneva campus is a great example of our outreach efforts and our responsibility to New York state to be the land grant school for the state. And that means offering service in terms of research, and outreach, and the kinds of extension that Cornell is famous for. So my own two kids happen to go to college up in Geneva, and I'm rather attached to Geneva for that reason, as well as others. And I think the fact that Cornell is there, and is known to be there, is a big part of our identity and our mission.
We take the land grant thing here really seriously. It's not just something we can put on the end of our name. It is part of Cornell's identity, and it has been since its inception. We were founded in 1865, and that's the year when the Morrill Act was passed, setting up land grant universities in the US. And Cornell immediately became New York state's land grant university. So Geneva, to me, is part and parcel of Cornell's identity, and it's a big deal in many respects.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. We'll go to one of our pre-submitted questions here. In your three terms as president at Cornell, you have seen varying degrees of campus activism. What is your opinion about the role of activism writ large as a vehicle for administrative and policy change, and you have any thoughts on staff involvement in activism, particularly to our status as at-will employees?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So Cornell's always been an activist campus, I would say. I remember when I first came here in 1995, many people said, all right, get ready. This is going to be active. And it certainly was that first year when I proposed a big change in undergraduate student housing. And let's just say, not all the undergraduates liked it. So I heard a lot about that in the spring, and we made some big changes over the summer, and came back with a different plan the following year.
That's a really good example, frankly, of activists changing the administration's mind through their actions. So it's not as if we always just sit in the bastion and hope the activism goes away. It often has an impact. And that was a good example back in 1995 and 1996. And the result, partly, because of that, is that we now have a north campus where all the freshmen live, and we have west campus where a lot of sophomores and juniors live in housing that was built shortly after that.
So I'm always in favor of activism when it results in positive change, and when it results in reform. Other kinds of activism I'd rather happen when I'm retired. OK, next question.
BJ SIASOCO: We'll switch to a question from the audience.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: And by the way I've been retired three times, and my wife said, you know, Hunter, you have now flunked retirement three times. Do you think you could pass some time?
TOM HORTON: Hello. I'm Tom Horton with the IT security office. With the recent news with the decrease in the endowment, how does that affect the type of risks that we should be taking from a departmental or individual focus?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: That's a great question. The first impact of that downturn-- and as you probably saw, most of our peers also had a downturn in their endowment performance this past year because of the markets. The first impact is that the budgets for the colleges aren't as robust as they were expected to be. So it's a matter partly of expectations, as Ulysses was saying earlier, manage expectations.
In this case we had disappointing results. And so what the deans had been planning can't be implemented to the extent that the deans wanted. So that's tough, and it means we do have to tighten belts, and we're not under the same budget regime we thought we would be in this year.
On the other hand, I would say it doesn't mean we should stop taking some intelligent risks, because often it's those intelligent risks that enable us to reduce cost, or to reduce the amount of time we spend on various things. And there's a project underway right now that some of you might have read about which has the very inelegant title of Bureaucracy Reduction. I mean, could anything be worse than that title, Bureaucracy Reduction?
But it's a serious effort that is undertaken by faculty and the administration. So there are about 10 of us working on this, and it really came out of a faculty report that was chaired by Sol Gruner in the physics department last year that said often when we make cuts in the university expecting and hoping to save money, we actually push a lot of the work off to others-- in particular, the faculty frequently. And that so-called shadow work then has a real impact on the faculty as a whole.
So we're looking into that. We're looking into doing things in a way that take all of those things into account. Because sometimes the things we do have unintended consequences, and we don't figure those out for five years. So I think we need to get smarter at this, and that's what this group is devoted to doing. It's a good question.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. I just did want to add that we will be collecting all the questions. So if we don't get all the questions, we will submit them to Mary and the President's Office as well. This question comes from online, from Bob Gerkinson. How does the cooperative extension fit into your vision of One Cornell?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So cooperative extension, as I said a few minutes ago, is almost perfect for the One Cornell vision. Because what it says is, we take the knowledge that's generated here on campus out to the public. So One Cornell, in that case, means keeping our ideas and the knowledge that we generate available not simply on the campus, but for those who can use it out in the state of New York. And that's been a long tradition. It's one of the reasons, when I go to Albany to work on behalf of Cornell with the legislature, frankly the reception I get there is so positive. And I wasn't always used to that when I was at former universities.
But at Cornell it's amazing. When you go to Albany representing Cornell, many, many legislators greet you very warmly. And why is that? Because Cornell is in their districts. Whether it's Long Island, New York City, upstate New York. Cornell is in their districts. I mean, that's pretty cool. We're in every county in New York state, we're in every borough in New York City. I mean, that's amazing. How many other universities can say that? That many.
So I think it's a really integral part of Cornell's mission. None of us should ever lose sight of that. It's who Cornell is.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. We'll go back to a question from the audience if there are questions in the audience.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Hey, here's one. Right here. You know, I'm not used to Cornellians being shy, especially those of you from Long Island. So let's have another question.
SPEAKER 2: I'm from the Long Island so that makes sense. [LAUGHTER]
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Called it.
SPEAKER 2: So you were just talking about a faculty report that was put out from the physics department, you said, from an unlikely source, I would imagine in terms of influencing policy. So I guess the big question I have is, in terms of the Cornell workplace and the amount of-- I love interacting with faculty, I'm from the corporate and foundation relations office. So it's nice to get out and actually speak with them.
And in terms of our workplace, I don't know how to leverage our resources in let's say the ILR department. In terms of I'd love to be a guinea pig for a lot of different things. So I'm just saying that I'm curious, in terms of using our resources on campus, use us as a case study with things, and sort of to drive innovation within our workplace. I'm just curious where you see them taking a place.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Yeah, I mean, that's a good point. We'll take ideas from anywhere frankly, as long as they're honestly meant. And I think that ILR's a terrific example of that. Because though it's a relatively small school, it has a very big impact, first on this campus because of the collaborations it has with our other colleges. Secondly, in the state of New York, particularly the city of New York, where the ILR facility on 34th Street has for a long time been contributing to the workplace in New York City, and to laborers in New York City in a pretty big way.
So we're looking for good ideas. And we're looking for staff who will get outside the normal bubble and contribute their thoughts to what we're trying to do. So seems to me what you're describing could well be applied to what I was talking about earlier, namely, getting staff to work closely with faculty and to suggest things for the faculty that will be useful.
A lot of times we implement policies, frankly, with the best of intentions, but we're not able to foresee what the consequences will be for everyone. And that, I would say, is one of our biggest problems. That we come up with an idea that seems really good, we put it into implementation, and then three years later we learn that there were some things as a result of that that we did not foresee, and they're not good. So we have to get better in the way we think through those things. Yep, Mary?
MARY OPPERMAN: It's a great point, and we actually do work with faculty from ILR, both when they are looking at studying a particular workplace issue and they'd like to use our workplace, but also we're looking at a particular issue and we'd like their assistance. So we're fairly engages with them. But I'll find out more about you in case we need a guinea pig for something. So thank you.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Yeah, it's a good point.
BJ SIASOCO: So I'll move to some of the pre-submitted questions. We had four or five questions about diversity at Cornell. And just going to combine most of them together and talk about how we can actually move from diversity and retention as a talking point to a value that the university actually embodies. How could we do that?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So the way you succeed at that is with success. I mean, there's no other way to state it. I mean, as long as you're trying, trying, trying, that's nice. But if you don't succeed, then you're not accomplishing anything. So we all have to be sure that we're results oriented. And I know that there are some domains where the pool of applicants doesn't seem very diverse. So that's when we have to get smarter and more broad in our thinking on how to make the pool more diverse.
Because I think for us here in upstate New York, it's especially important to take a leadership role. Because demographically, this part of the state clearly doesn't have the diversity that you see downstate, for example. So a lot of our units are now recruiting hard in the city of New York, which is much more diverse, and I think incumbent upon all of us to take whatever positive steps we can to try to ensure that we have results, not just good intentions.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you. We have time probably for one more question if there's someone in the audience.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: One more question, you don't have to be from Long Island. But it helps. All right, I think-- yes, there's one more.
SPEAKER 3: Just to end on a high note. So as much as we've heard about streamlining and then ultimately hearing about new offices, new high level appointees. And yet the workforce here is pretty lean. And truthfully, the staff increases have been pretty poor over a number of years.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: You mean the salary increases?
SPEAKER 3: Indeed.
HUNTER RAWLINGS: Yep.
SPEAKER 3: And as much as we love working here and doing as much as we can, bottom line, even as a manager, it comes to the SIT process, and I'm sometimes bringing people up to the minimums, and they've been working here five years or more. And that's just simply not right. And where is the emphasis going to be on paying back to our workforce?
HUNTER RAWLINGS: So that's a good question, a perfectly good question. And it's something that we definitely want to improve on. Because as you say, the past few years have not been great. And that's been true, frankly, across a lot of the country. And that's why there's so much anger, I think, and frustration in the country today. We see it all the time in our politics.
So these last few years it tends to be the 1% who have done well, and everyone else has failed to do well. So it's a national problem, It's not just a local problem. And it's extremely frustrating. And it's probably the most important issue now in America today. Namely, inequality. And Cornell has to do its part to try to solve that.
We take the SIT process really seriously. We do as much as we possibly can within the confines of our budget. I can promise you that it's a very high priority within the Cornell budget. It would help if the endowment returns were better obviously. And so far I'm happy to say in the last few months they are better. A good deal better. So we're going to have to make that very, very high priority in order to ensure, as you said, that the hardworking people here on the staff and on the faculty are properly rewarded for their efforts. Because it's nice to talk slogans, but it's important to get a good paycheck. I couldn't agree with you more.
Thanks to all of you, and I hope I'll see you around campus frequently.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you everyone for attending. Again, just would like to remind everyone that the questions we did receive will all be collected and shared with Vice President Mary Opperman and the President. Please enjoy lunch on your way out. Thank you.
ULYSSES SMITH: And one announcement. If you're interested, there's a duplicate staff forum occurring that the Employee Assembly and our department sponsored on Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. If you're interested in participating, it's October 18th, noon to 1:30. Lunch will be provided. diversity.cornell.edu/iea.
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